Secrets of Paris?
July 18, 2010 6:21 AM   Subscribe

Are there any bonafide secrets of Paris?

I'm currently in Paris and have visited most of the main museums before (Louvre, Picasso, Orsay, etc.).

Are there any true great secrets that no one really talks about that are worth a gander? Restaurants could count too but I'm more interested in either museums or some visual gem of some sort.

One idea that I kind of like is if there was a place where someone took you for a walk around an arrondissement describing the history in French.

Based on another post I did go to Musee Dupuytren which was really cool.

posted by fantasticninety to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (29 answers total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
I've never been to Paris, but this site is spot on for oddities in my area.
posted by kellyblah at 6:33 AM on July 18, 2010

Hm, there was an excellent book I bought in a bookstore in Paris in 2005 that was all about this exact question -- called something like "Hidden Paris" or "Unknown Paris," but I've tried Googling and those don't seem to be it. Does anyone know the book I'm thinking of? (It was glossy and had a nice color photo for each entry.)

La Défense, the financial district on the outskirts of Paris, is full of amazing visuals. (Here are my photos.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:41 AM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Go underground. Check out the sewers and the catacombs.
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 7:03 AM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure how it got its name, but Palais de Tokyo is a really cool, contemporary art exhibition space (strangely unrelated to palaces or to tokyo).
posted by at the crossroads at 7:07 AM on July 18, 2010

Seconding the Catacombs.
Another amazing off beat tour is the Paris Sewer system.
posted by Flood at 7:09 AM on July 18, 2010

Have you seen the Rodin Museum?
posted by infini at 7:14 AM on July 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

Visit the Parisian Chinatown !

One of the rare place in Paris with skyscrapers.

I live here and it's fascinating.

You could take great pictures there.
posted by Jaloux Saboteur at 7:20 AM on July 18, 2010

The Buttes Chaumont park is gorgeous and has excellent views of Paris (it's high up in the 19th). It's a very popular place for Parisians to picnic, but I rarely see tourists there. If you're around in a few days, the Plages de Paris will open up. Everyone knows about the one near the Louvre, but a better one (in my opinion) is along the Bassin de la Villette, where they have kayaking and boules. The Centquatre is a rather hip artists' residence where there are lots of exhibits, parties, and events.

The catacombs are not really secret, but fun. Get there early, however -- friends who are visiting us went later in the day and couldn't get in because the lines were so long.

Also, palais can also be translated as exhibition hall, not just palace.
posted by tractorfeed at 7:21 AM on July 18, 2010

The Musée Gustave Moreau.
posted by misteraitch at 7:41 AM on July 18, 2010

One nice secret Paris is the Bievre river that used to flow under the 5th and 13th (more info here). That blog Invisible Paris has lots of fun post-tourist info on Paris. He also wrote the Paris Street Art walking map, an excellent way to spend an afternoon. Parisien street art is amazing and this walk gives you a nice tour of the streets of Belleville in the 20th.

A good resource for discovering more of Paris in English is the Paris Walks company. It's a low key series of narrated walking tours of Paris. They tend towards academic, led by British professors talking about an area of expertise. Take a look at their list and go to one that interests you. I enjoyed one of the Marais tours the most, the guide did a great job of explaining some amusing minutiae of the history of the area.
posted by Nelson at 7:44 AM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

You may well have been there, as it's not exactly a secret, but just in case: The Orangerie. It's a short walk from the Louvre through the Jardin des Tuileries, and is often overlooked.
posted by djgh at 7:55 AM on July 18, 2010

There is a nice wikipedia page for suggestions you may not get: List of museums in Paris.

One place I've wanted to go and haven't is the Musee Fragonard, a museum of old medical and anatomical models and physiological curiosities. Rather morbid, but fascinating in that it is an old museum that has been quite unchanged over time.

I've also heard very good things about the Museum of Jewish Art and History in the Marais.
posted by Schismatic at 8:21 AM on July 18, 2010

There is a Holocaust Memorial behind Notre Dame which doesn't really seem to feature anywhere and is worth a moment.

I'd recommend the Edith Piaf museum. It is by appointment only, but well worth it for oddity value alone. Housed in Bernard Marchois' living room, it features a number of valuable artefacts that any "normal" museum would be proud of. I think he has this dress for example, as well as many of her books, jewellery, gold records etc. He also knew her and has many stories to tell if you speak French. It's a unique experience and only takes an hour, worth a look even if you're not a Piaf fanatic (I'm not.)
posted by fire&wings at 8:21 AM on July 18, 2010

Walking tours in French are listed in the weekly publications Pariscope and L'officiel des spectacles, available from any newsstand. You want the section on "conférences." They usually last about an hour and cost around € 5-7.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:41 AM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Deyrolle. Bring your camera. It's awesome.
posted by L'OM at 8:54 AM on July 18, 2010

If you're keen to explore the catacombs, and depending on how secretive and clandestine you want to be: Take a look at this article about a secret cinema down there.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 9:09 AM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Explore the peripheral arrondisement. You get a better understanding of the ethnic/racial composition of the city and how the integration is somewhat fragmented into pockets.
posted by Hurst at 9:17 AM on July 18, 2010

The house of Victor Hugo is a nice place to visit and for a stroll. The Musée Carnavalet has a lot of odds and ends, including Proust's bedroom.
posted by Omon Ra at 9:34 AM on July 18, 2010

Not exactly secret but Père Lachaise Cemetary is fascinating.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 9:37 AM on July 18, 2010

If you're interested in Asian art & history, check out the Musée Guimet.
posted by ljshapiro at 10:19 AM on July 18, 2010

more off the main beaten track than secret but the Institut du Monde Arabe has fascinating architecture, exhibits, and a fabulous view over the centre of Paris from the roof terrace as well as a restaurant and cafe up there. Just down the road is the Grand Mosque of Paris, dating from the 1920s. It is open to look round, there is a lovely tea room and a gorgeous hamman. The Botanical Gardens and Natural History Museum just across the road are worth a look too.
posted by runincircles at 12:02 PM on July 18, 2010

No one's mentioned Secrets of Paris yet.
posted by DandyRandy at 12:55 PM on July 18, 2010

Maybe visit the Bouquinistes on the seine?

Recently, BBC Radio 4 presented a wonderful documentary about their subculture, including a wonderful sequence about an American traveler who found a favourite book from her childhood at a Bouquiniste stall.

Upon opening it she found that the inscription on the flyleaf was in her own handwriting.
Her book had made it over the atlantic some years before she had!
(This broadcast may still be available online, but possibly not outside the UK, pm me)

For the darker secrets of Paris' class divide, watch La Haine.
To recover: watch Before Sunrise and Before Sunset

After that, If you like the bookshop where Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy meet, you can visit Shakespeare and Company, a bookshop that acts as a dosshouse/incubator for starving writers.

posted by driftingclouds at 12:58 PM on July 18, 2010

Museum of the History of Medecine looks like a good start. That link is on a site called Cool Stuff in Paris so, you know, you might be able to find some other ideas there.

full disclaimer: guy who runs the site is a friend of mine etc.
posted by komara at 2:34 PM on July 18, 2010

Whoops, way to mangle English and French together. The Museum of the History of Medicine. Sorry.
posted by komara at 2:35 PM on July 18, 2010

Seconding Deyrolle forever and ever.
posted by timshel at 7:24 AM on July 19, 2010

Never been myself but am looking forward to visiting The Albert Khan Museum and Gardens.
posted by Dr.Pill at 1:50 PM on July 19, 2010

You have to travel out of the city to the country side. It is a completely different culture that is rich, colorful and the people are much nicer
posted by ClueHut at 1:04 AM on July 20, 2010

Paris iz ome to ze fahst elevated park, la coulée verte, which is about 4,5 km long.
I know there is an English wikipedia link but I cannot find it in this awful new interface I'm being served. hm.
posted by whatzit at 9:15 AM on July 20, 2010

« Older Disposing of lots of old frozen meat   |   Platinum-iridium rods in search of a project Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.